Monkey presses button monkey gets reward.

The mouse has been around for 40 years and all we tend to do with it is move it from anchor to anchor and click the thing like a primate trapped in a feedback loop. Monkey presses button. Monkey gets reward. Modern interaction design suggests greater possibilities, but that’s just theory. In practice we use about 20% of the inherent capabilities of this most ancient of pointing devices. Worse, users are actively resistant to using this existing device more fully, even as they dream about Minority Report possibilities of multitouch and gestural interfaces.

mousecalloutDon’t Click It is an experiment. The site is navigated entirely using mouse gestures. Negative feedback is provided to counteract the monkey response of press the button for a reward. The user is punished when they try to do so. Its quite amazing how thoroughly we have learned the lesson that you get something when you press a button.

The site demonstrates a rich interaction style that has been possible for the last 20 years, and yet never happened. Its interesting; for me it was a wake-up call actually, but is it practical? Well, what is practical? Most of us don’t remember a time when we’d never used a mouse before. Anchoring and clicking are habits, not an inherent feature of the device. As we move forward with new kinds of pointing devices (our bodies) I think we’ll find that navigation through an interface was never about pointing and clicking, but rather, continuous movements and physical constraints.

Or maybe not. We are creatures of habit. We crave the lowest common denominator like a warm blanket. I came across a thread on this topic that I’d commented on back in 2006.  The only responses were words like “stupid” and “pointless”. I’ve long understood that users simply want more of the same despite asking for innovation. Interaction design is in part the study of learned helplessness and passivity. Its an unpleasant conclusion. What do you think? Too harsh? Too soon to tell?

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